When a person seeks counseling it is often in the context of suffering. With any kind of suffering, two basic questions are asked. “Who cares?” and “What’s the Use?” I have tried to fix my marriage, or to fight this depression, and nothing is working. Or, I feel so alone, nobody will help. A key Scripture for these counseling conversations is 1 Peter 1:6-9. According to that passage, Who Cares? God does. What’s the Use? Here is “the use”, the purpose of the sufferings that we face.
We are tempted to give a ‘quick answer’ when people come to us with their sufferings. We can say, “God is in control. He is Sovereign. So, don’t worry.” Those are true statements. But along with saying those, we should let God communicate that doctrine through His own Word in Scriptures like this one from Peter. Then we have taught the people we are helping how to go back to God’s Word and find comfort the next time they face suffering.
1 Peter 1:6–9 reads, “6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
The theme of that passage is that the suffering that God sends to His people has a precious purpose. The Apostle Peter reveals this precious purpose by teaching us 1) Sufferings are different, but providence is the same. 2) Your faith is too precious to be pain-free. 3) Suffering comes for the purpose of more love for your Savior.
- Sufferings are different, but providence is the same (verse 6). It is important to remember God sends various trials. Sometimes we are tempted to compare notes on our trial to others. If they don’t have it as bad as us, then they didn’t really have a trial. Perhaps we might say, COVID is very contagious, but it is not very deadly, with only a very small percentage of people who die compared to nearly every kind of cancer which has much higher percentage of death rates. That is very true. The news and fascination with just one thing has caused us to forget other diseases. But this Scripture reminds us, regardless of how deadly something is, it is still a trial for the person going through it.
In fact, even if a person doesn’t get a disease, they can go through their own trial. It may be an emotion-centered trial. Maybe it is grief. Maybe it is guilt. Sufferings come from 3 potential sources, and often these sources are blended in some way. We need to adequately address each in their appropriate way. Some sufferings come because of your own sin. Some sufferings because of other people’s sins against you in some way. Still other sufferings come from the general disorder of life in a sin-scarred world ever since Genesis 3 (disease and disability would fall into this category, normally).
Though all people suffer in some way, 1 Peter 1:6 tells us that these trials happen from the same hand, ultimately—“if need be” God has sent them. No suffering for the child of God is ever meaningless. It comes not by chance but by God’s fatherly hand.
- Your faith is too precious to be pain-free. (verse 7) The illustration is used here of the precious metal: gold. It is mined and found, not in big gold bars, but mixed in with rock. So those rocks are broken and heated up in a fire, so that the gold will melt out of it and can be formed into gold bars and coins and jewelry. The heat of the fire is like the heat of a painful suffering. And if gold is more beautiful and shaped into useful things BECAUSE of the fires, HOW MUCH MORE PRECIOUS are you, a child of God, when God comes along to heat your life up, so that what comes out is a beautiful faith, formed to praise and glorify your Savior Jesus?
A proverb of our culture is that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That is NOT Biblical. We do not automatically get stronger just because we suffer. We get stronger when we suffer in faith. Verse 7 says it is not the person who is tested, but the faith of the person that is tested through suffering. So, how can we make sure that no pain goes to waste?
We read in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.” Suffering drives us to the Scriptures, where we find the comfort that God has designed for us. So, whether or not you are in suffering today, today is the time to fill up your spiritual tank, so you have strength to lean on when the pain hits and you have trouble thinking clearly or knowing what to do.
Regular reading of the Bible teaches us how God loves His people in the midst of sufferings. A good place to start is Hebrews 11. That is the Hall of Faith. It refers to many different Old Testament believers. As you read, then look at the little footnotes in your Bible that tell you where to find the life of Noah, or Abraham, or Rahab. Turn and read the full chapter and events of those saints. You will learn greatly how to face your own sufferings, and to see your union with these brothers and sisters with whom we will spend eternity. As far as the New Testament believers, a good place to see how they endured suffering would be the book of Acts, which records the missionary journeys and expansion of the church in the middle of great persecution. Of course, you also could look at the life of Christ Himself. In fact, verse 7 hints that the lack of a pain-free faith will bring you to praising Jesus and honoring Him. So, look at how He endured suffering from Jew and Gentile, from leaders to the lowly beggars who were healed and then did not obey His message to them. Indeed, Jesus even suffered the betrayal and abandonment of His own chosen 12 apostles.
[discussion on how to see the purpose of God in suffering when we seek help for our suffering through counseling…to be continued]